A day in Kathmandu


A mass of motorcycles whiz by as I try to make my way across the street in the heart of Kathmandu. The sun is warm and the air smells of emissions and gasoline fumes. It’s hard to tell if there are any traffic rules as everyone seems to go their own way, when they want, and in whichever direction suits them. This could explain why forty percent of all traffic deaths are pedestrians.

My plan is to pick up a pair of trekking poles, visit the ATM for local currency (Nepali Rupee), and after chatting with Steve Webster, the architect of my trip, a dust mask. He said the trail can get unexpectedly dusty and dirty if you end up hiking behind a donkey or yak. Come to think of it, I could have used a dust mask for the entirety of the Kathmandu walk as well. It is some of the dirtiest, smoggiest, dustiest air I’ve ever experienced. This coming from a woman who has taken a run in the heart of Shanghai.

The Diamox is kicking in and my head is achy, fingers and toes tingling, and appetite waning. After chatting with my guide this morning, I might consider reducing the dosage by half. I’ll play it by ear.

In many places I visited, the city was in shambles after the earthquake that hit in April 2015. Buildings and temples that stood for hundreds of years reduced to brick and mortar. Many others have wooden support beams simply holding them up for the time being or quite possibly forever,  it’s tough to tell. With all of the destruction and ruin, I was surprised not to see a single crane or cement truck, even a couple of construction guys standing around a hole appearing to talk about it. Nothing that indicated any rebuilding was on the horizon. Except for a sign that said, “Let’s Rebuild Together,” and showed a picture of the once beautiful temple now a pile of dirt and dust. Sohan said it was likely five years, but he reminded me, five Nepali years can mean closer to twenty-five or never.

Eventually, we made our way to Thamel, the heart of the shopping and tourist district. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of shopkeepers selling their wares lined a narrow cobblestone road used by motorcycles, pedestrians, school children, and cows alike. All moving in different directions, different speed, and with different levels of urgency. The heel of my shoe was stepped on twice, and twice I received a “sorry,” from a Nepali man with a hand raised in apology.

The trekking pole shop was full of knock-offs. I was warned that the poles might break if I screwed them too tightly. “They might crack,” Sohan said. “So should I go somewhere else?” I asked. “Everywhere is the same,” he responded smiling. Not exactly what I read about, but I figured I’d give it a go. I picked up a nice knock-off set of trekking sticks for about $15. I’m willing to forego using them going up, but they better work coming down.

The ATM offered little success, but I’ll exchange USD for Nepali rupees at the hotel. The dust masks were around three bucks. Come six am tomorrow, I’ll be ready for my flight to Lukla, and the journey up to Monjo.

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